Hwyl And Heritage
It’s what makes us different. Country and coast are peppered with a special mix of historic sites – World Heritage fortresses and slate quarries, Celtic shrines and cultural centres. There are inspirational landscapes too, and a living Welsh language you’ll hear and see everywhere. All these things have made North Wales what it is today – a unique part of the United Kingdom. It’s an identity we like to share with everyone, through words, music and new initiatives like Ein Treftadaeth (‘Our Heritage’) which is bringing the past to life in many different ways.
Hwyl – what’s that all about?
Good question. Such words are a window into the world of the Welsh language – and the deep-rooted spirit of Wales. Welsh words often refer to an intangible quality of passion and sense of belonging that aren’t easy to translate. But – in a word – they can sum up Welshness. Hwyl, for example, can mean mood, emotional fervour, fun, good luck, goodbye or even the sail of a ship. Welsh is an everyday language in these parts. It’s part of the fabric – we even have our own different regional accents just like they do in Birmingham, Manchester and the South.
Ein Treftadaeth, Our Heritage
Spring 2013 sees the opening of a new exhibition at Oriel Pendeitsh a stone’s throw from Caernarfon Castle. It’s a snapshot of the history of Caernarfon, a town shaped by Roman, medieval and maritime influences. It also marks the start of Ein Treftadaeth, an initiative which will see the launch of other exhibitions and events throughout the area in the next few years, encompassing everything from prehistory to the coming of the Romans, pilgrims’ trails to the Princes of Gwynedd, spiritual landscapes to the slate industry.
Princes of Gwynedd
The mighty castles thrown up by English King Edward I are just part of our story. Discover more about the native Princes of Gwynedd at a major new flagship exhibition in Conwy Tourist Information Centre, featuring animated and explorer maps, interactive displays, Welsh poetry and music. There are also hub exhibitions at Betws y Coed TIC and Cricieth Castle, plus a planned exhibition for Beddgelert TIC.
Bryn on Bardsey
Such is the power of Snowdonia’s landscapes that everyone, locals and visitors alike, can tune in. Here’s what local hero Bryn Terfel thinks of Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island) off the tip of Llŷn: ‘(It’s) an extraordinary island… tiny, but truly magical, a place of contemplation. They say 20,000 saints are buried here, which I’m sure is true, because, my goodness, I’ve never known such spirituality… As we arrived, a choir of seals sang us into the bay.’
Slate and stone
The North Wales slate industry tells a compelling story – so much so that it has been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status. The story is told at industrial heritage sites like Chwarel Hên Llanfair Slate Caverns (Llanfair), Corris Mine, Inigo Jones Slateworks (Penygroes), Llechwedd Slate Caverns (Blaenau Ffestiniog), the National Slate Museum (Llanberis) and the Sygun Copper Mine (Beddgelert). Stone crops up everywhere too, in castles and ancient Celtic settlements like Tre’r Ceiri on the rock-strewn summit of Llŷn’s Yr Eifl mountains. Castles are something of a local speciality. Mighty Caernarfon, Harlech and Conwy – three UNESCO World Heritage Sites – are links in the medieval ‘iron chain’ built by Edward I.
National Museums of Wales
Llanberis’s National Slate Museum brings to life an industry that once ‘roofed the world’. This is no ordinary museum. It’s the actual 19th-century workshops, looking as if the workers have just clocked off for the day. There’s also a row of quarrymen’s cottages and giant waterwheel. Little wonder that it’s a focal point for the slate industry’s bid for World Heritage status.
The National Trust
The National Trust cares for mansions and historic houses large and small – for example, Bangor’s neo-baronial Penrhyn Castle and humble Tŷ Mawr Wybrnant, Penmachno, home of Bishop William Morgan, who first translated the Bible into Welsh.
Words and music
This lyrical language of ours is music to the ears. For more Celtic melodies and the chance to take part in interactive exhibitions go to Tŷ Siamas, Dolgellau, the National Centre for Folk Music. And for the written word there’s Tŷ Newydd, the National Writers’ Centre for Wales, at Llanystumdwy.
People and places
Fiery politician Lloyd George who became Prime Minister had a peaceful upbringing in the village of Llanystumdwy – visit the museum there dedicated to the charismatic ‘Welsh Wizard’. The unique fantasy village of Portmeirion, where Italy meets North Wales, was the vision of one man – architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. Go there and be amazed. Kate Roberts (1891–1985) is one of Wales’s most celebrated writers. Discover more about her life and work at the heritage centre in her childhood home, Cae’r Gors, Rhosgadfan.
A guided walk through history
Experienced local guide Emrys Llewelyn will help you discover the history of Caernarfon and its people from medieval times to the present day, visiting some of the town’s unseen treasures (www.caernarfonwalks.com). For guided walks and tours to castles and historic nooks and crannies covering the entire area go to www.turnstone-tours.co.uk
Cadw meaning ‘to keep’ or ‘to protect’ is the Welsh Government’s historic environment service, responsible for the care of many historic sites such as Plas Mawr, Conwy, and major castles. Download the latest version of its app from the Apple or Google store.